Chavela Vargas is a Mexican legend of rancheras and for my abuelita she was her siren of choice. Born in Costa Rica but claimed by most Mexicans she has been openly lesbian and is even known to have had a relationship with artist Frida Kahlo. Chavela once said: “I didn't attend lesbian classes. No one taught me to be this way. I was born this way, from the moment I opened my eyes in this world. I've never been to bed with a man. Never. That's how pure I am; I have nothing to be ashamed of. My gods made me the way I am.” She appears in Salma Hayek’s Frida film as a singer in a cantina and accompanies another favorite singer of mine, Lila Downs, who also appears and sings in the film.
Though my abuela and I both love Chavela belting out with passion songs of love and pain, I don’t remember hearing the music when I visited. I came to be a fan much later in life when I was in college. I remember being so excited when Chavela performed at Carnegie Hall in 2003. The recognition and platform was long overdue.
This is the fourth in a series of women singers who inspire me.Order a print by clicking here $100